What is Games ‘User Experience’ (UX)
…and How Does It Help?
When you boot up your computer, click on your browser of choice and begin scrolling through social media, what sticks in your mind? Is it incremental new features? The colors? Is the app or website you are using easy on the eyes?
All of this is an instrumental part of the experience that users have. Fittingly, it is called UX, or User Experience.
It is the software and web design of how well the user experiences the program. If you have ever been frustrated with navigation through a website or app, the chances are that the UX and UI aren’t the best it could be.
UI vs. UX: What’s The Difference?
What Is the User Experience?
Before applying the two terms to games, let’s examine what they mean in the general sense.
Very simply, the User experience (UX) is the particular user’s experience with a specific program, website, or brand. The man who basically invented the term, Don Norman, states that:
This isn’t just limited to things like Instagram and Facebook. While those may be the most common user experiences we can conjure up, interactions with brands like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, and Apple all have unique user experiences and UX design.
This needs to be a positive experience for everyone. If a subset of the population is left out of the user experience, it isn’t good UX.
Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen give the example of a movie review website to illustrate their ideas:
“Even if the UI for finding a film is perfect, the UX will be poor for a user who wants information about a small independent release if the underlying database only contains movies from the major studios.”
What Is the User Interface?
The user interface is how the user or player physically interacts with a product or game. An in-game menu, a radial wheel of weapons, the difficulty selector, and an inventory screen are prime examples of user interfaces.
What Are the Main Differences?
The difference between UI and UX lies in how they’re thought of and executed. Players and users will see the user interface all of the time, yet will be engaging with the UX elements while playing.
The user interface is a much more tangible aspect, while user experience is more conceptual.
How Do UX and UI Work Off of One Another?
Both are equally important roles within development circles. Without the user experience, the user interface could be just an empty shell. It could look good, but without a functional experience, it’s next to useless.
Likewise, without an excellent user interface, people may be repelled by your design choices and gravitate away from your brand or product. When the two of them work together, you ideally have a fantastic looking user interface, along with smooth user experience.
When these two roles combine, you can end up with a breathtaking product.
UX Designers think of all of the possibilities.
As a UX designer, you need to know what people want.
- What are their values?
- Do they feel motivated to click through to your app or game?
- Does your game look attractive enough to warrant a click?
These are all questions that UX designers deal with in every project. It’s a multifaceted psychological exercise in practical design.
UX Design is all about the users: Accessibility and Context.
As a user experience designer, you will have the user in mind with all of your design choices. Being user-centric is the name of the game, with everything that goes with it. This means that a potential UX designer must be in tune with multiple factors.
First, they must be familiar with current design trends. UX designers need to know what works and what doesn’t.
Second, the ideal UX Designer will be attuned to the needs and accessibility of each potential user. You are designing for all ages, as well as for those with disabilities.
This means the UX designer will be familiar with the proper text size for viewing, color correction, and more. Think of this as a challenge to really make your UX work.
What happens when a player without disabilities plays your game on their phone out in the sun and can’t see the text? Context matters in user experience design, so you need to be aware of every potential pitfall and setback.
5 Vital Skills to Use As A UX Designer
Here are some crucial skills for any UX designer worth their salt:
In the UX process, you need to be able to get things done independently and be a great team player. If you are part of a game studio, you will be working side-by-side with other designers to complete projects every day. It is paramount that you can work in a team and collaborate on projects.
Along with this, you need to be able to take constructive criticism!
You must be familiar with some basics in coding. Ideally, a good UX designer will have a familiar grasp of some coding languages. This makes their job much more manageable.
The cornerstone of UX design is knowing what the user wants. This means that the adept UX designer will be in touch with the cognitive psychology of internet users and gamers. UX designers will collect tons of data to determine what works and what doesn’t.
With a majority of the population being primarily visual learners, you need to know how to communicate using visuals. This is where you need to know typefaces, colors, kerning, and more. Communicating visually effectively can make a world of difference. Most importantly, it can express your exciting ideas to gamers and users.
Put Yourself in the User’s Shoes
Empathy is an excellent quality in UX designers but an essential quality in everyday life. Understanding the user, their likes, and dislikes can make or break your UX design. Harness large amounts of data, and even interview some users about their experience with your game or product to get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Education and Training
User experience jobs are on the rise, which means that the qualifications will fluctuate. For now, you can earn degrees of various levels in things like graphic design and computer science. These will further help you establish a portfolio, which is almost always a must if you want to make waves in the UX design job market.
While degrees are sometimes crucial, the more important qualifier is your skills as a designer. If you know more advanced computer science techniques and coding languages, you will be doing yourself an excellent service when applying for UX design jobs.
To boil it down, here are the two things to work on:
- Degrees in Design and Computer Science
- Portfolio pieces
What’s the Job Market Looking Like for UX Designers?
It is looking extremely promising for game UX designers everywhere. The United States, in particular, is home to some of the most UX designer jobs in the world. The higher end of their salaries for big-name companies is impressive, and the growth of the field of UX design is only growing.
Average UX Designer Salaries Around the World
The United States
Low: CA$51,000 ($37,000 USD)
Average: CA$72,000 ($52,000 USD)
High: CA$96,000 ($69,000 USD)
Low: A$69,000 ($44,000 USD)
Average: A$90,000 ($57,000 USD)
High: A$125,000 ($80,000 USD)
Low: €36,000 ($39,000 USD)
Average: €51,000 ($56,000 USD)
High: €76,000 ($83,000 USD)
Low:¥96,000 ($14,000 USD)
Average: ¥204,000 ($30,000 USD)
High: ¥396,000 ($56,000 USD)
The United Kingdom
Low: €28,000 ($33,000 USD)
Average: €40,000 ($46,000 USD)
High: €56,000 ($66,000 USD)
Here’s How to Negotiate a UX Salary
It can be intimidating trying to talk money with your future employer. You don’t want to step on any toes or take anything for granted, but you know your worth, and you want to negotiate a fair price. Here’s what you need to do:
Get a feel for what a reasonable salary is.
Do your research and see what a reasonable salary for your position is. Keep in mind your proficiency and your set of skills.
Keep in mind other factors like what state, metropolitan area, or company you’re based in. These can all vary wildly from one location and company to another.
Consider all of your skills.
While you can no doubt be a talented UX designer, you will ideally also have a slew of other skills as well. If you have some strong coding knowledge with a particular programming language or are proficient in programs like Autodesk Maya or Photoshop, include these as part of the ‘package’ that you are bringing to the table at this company.
Look for advice from professionals.
Search around for others in the field. If you know fellow UX designers or even other web development experts, asking them what a reasonable salary is is smart. Ask them what their experience was with negotiating salaries, what to look out for, and what to avoid.
Where to Look for Some Job Opportunities
There are a wide variety of job opportunities as a UX designer. You could work as a freelance designer, or find yourself working through the ranks of a company like Adobe or Adidas.
UX Design Tutorial for Beginners
- Introduces you to the concepts and ideas behind UX
- The first video in a series of UX design classes by Antony Conboy
- Watch it here
UX Design: How To Get Started (A Full Guide – 2020)
- 6 simple steps to start in UX design
- The journey through the UX design business by AJ&Smart
- Watch it here
UX Design vs. UI Design | What’s the Difference?
- A comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of both UX design and UI design.
- Helps the viewer get a feel for the job market and helps them on a career path.
- Watch it here
As the UX process pulls a lot of valuable data from users and gamers, you will want to jump right in and start compiling data. But what software or apps do you use to get this information? Here’s a cursory list to help you get started:
- Cost: Free for 5 devices; $99/month or more afterward
This program helps with debugging and crash reporting for your mobile UX design. It also specializes in trend data, network traffic, and more.
- Cost: Standard: $49 a month, Pro: $99 a month
Lookback.io puts you in direct contact with your users. Along with using valuable research tools, this UX tool is all about testing your UX design process. You can test nearly everything about it and see what fits and what doesn’t.
Game UX Design
Game UX: Vox Ludio, the Voice of the Player
Games these days are more accommodating than ever. A particularly strong example of a fantastic game UX is the accessibility options for The Last of Us: Part II. There are many options and menus to help those with disabilities see, hear, and experience the game to its fullest potential.
Game UX is all about listening to what the player has to say about their experiences with a game.
Why Does UX Matter When Making A Game?
Gamers are a dedicated and passionate bunch, so they won’t mince words when it comes to both good and bad design. Keeping players engaged and happy is paramount to aspects of the game’s success.
The best practices of game UX can be summed up into a few key areas. There are a few that you should especially pay attention to.
- Is your Game UX useful: does it fulfill a gamer’s need?
- Is your Game UX desirable: do players appreciate and feel motivated by your game UX?
- Is your Game UX accessible: Can everyone play the game and enjoy its features?
- Is your Game UX Usable: Can gamers use your game UX with ease and simplicity without getting hung up on unnecessary and unsightly game UX designs?
How to Improve Your Game’s User Experience
Know Your Players
Knowing your audience is key to a successful game UX design. Audiences for Halo are probably pretty significant in comparison to players of Stardew Valley.
What would a Stardew Valley player value in their game UX? A more accessible menu to streamline farming and mining?
Likewise, with a first-person shooter like Halo, players will probably value a great UI in their user experience and smooth multiplayer menus and matchmaking.
Be Consistent with your Game UX
Consistency is key. You can’t go around drastically changing what the user will experience. Keeping a consistent experience familiarizes the player with your game UX, and will get them more comfortable. This can be an essential asset if your game UX isn’t up to snuff.
If you are consistent, it may lessen an unfavorable reaction. For example, users complained of the UI and some of the UX of Total War: Three Kingdoms. While their complaints were valid, the UX was mainly consistent. This gets players used to the UX and UI, and eventually lessens the blow of complaints.
Mobile User Experience UX Design
Mobile UX is the user experience on a mobile device for mobile apps or games. Unlike console games, mobile UX must cover a more streamlined user experience. People can take phones anywhere. This means that the mobile UX must work in any environment, and run accessible for every mobile user.
Also, unlike consoles, users engaging in a mobile UX have to be entertained at a higher rate, as they can just switch out of an app or mobile game more quickly than a console game.
Limitations with Mobile UX Design
Obviously, the software limitations with a mobile UX are a little more scaled down from a console. This means that a UX developer must take advantage of a somewhat smaller toolkit for effective game UX for on-the-go gaming.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Game UI?
A game’s UI is the user interface. It covers everything about how the interface physically looks. For example, the user interface is if a menu is dark grey or white, or if a heads-up display is transparent or not.
Is the UI Part of UX?
Yes. UI is intimately connected to UX. The UI itself is a vital part of the UX.
Should I Do UI or UX?
It depends on what you are more interested in. For UI, you are interested in making visually appealing art and interactive media. With UX, you want to make sure a user’s experience with your brand or game UX is as smooth and memorable as possible.
What Is the Meaning of UI UX?
UI is the user interface. It refers to things like in-game menus, options screens, and heads-up displays.
UX is the user experience. This is the total experience that the user has with your game. Did the game run smoothly? Was it memorable? These are questions the UX designer must ask themselves.
What Is UI and UX Developer?
These two developers work on who the game physically looks, and how the game experience feels like for players, respectively.
How Do I Become A UX Developer?
You need to design! By designing your own projects and adding to a portfolio, you can better immerse yourself in the world of UX design. Earning degrees and certifications can also go a long way, and will be your primary way of entering the varied world of UX design.
Are UX Designers Programmers?
They can be. While they aren’t all programmers, having programming knowledge is a definite advantage to game UX. It allows you to better understand the nuances of the game UX and what can be fixed or improved upon.
What Is A Mobile Designer?
A mobile designer is an individual who uses UX knowledge and design awareness to create a valuable game UX for mobile platforms.
What Skills Do You Need to be A UX Designer?
You need to be able to work in a team, have a vast knowledge of your users’ psychology, and a flair for design.
Where Do UX Designers Work?
They work in small and large companies all over the world.
What Qualifications Do You Need to be A UX designer?
You will need a degree of some sort (associate, bachelor’s, etc.) and, ideally, a robust design portfolio filled with personal and professional projects.
Where Can I Find UX Design Jobs?
They can be found in nearly every major city, as well as every state. Pay scales depend on the location, company, and more.
Is User Experience Design A Good Career?
If you work your way up through the ranks, a user experience design job can be a fantastic option for your future. The career field is growing, and companies will always need a valuable UX designer.
What Are UX Tools?
These are invaluable UX tools that allow you to not only create a great UX, but to edit, debug, and edit your UX for different users.
Do UX Designers Need to Code?
They don’t necessarily need to, but it makes their jobs much more straightforward. If they don’t code, they will have to depend on a team of programmers to do some work for them.
Why Is UX Important?
It’s one of, if not the most critical aspects of design. It lays out how the player or user will interact with your product, game, or brand. It can be extremely beneficial to your profit, or disastrous, depending on the quality.